Christina Johns MD has built a career that many doctors only dream of- as a spokesperson and Senior Medical Advisor for a major health care organization, PM Pediatrics. Dr. Johns path to a career in healthcare media started while she was still in her pediatrics training, but media work did not initially take her away from her pursuit of becoming a good clinician.
While she was on duty as a resident at Johns Hopkins, she was interviewed on the spot for a story. After watching her, the news director for the local ABC affiliate was impressed with her professionalism and her comfort level in speaking to the media. He suggested that she move towards media work as a job. From there she started by appearing in local health and medical pieces.
As she moved on to a pediatric emergency medicine fellowship, she continued to do interviews. The hospital media team got to know her, and when a member of the hospital media team heard that ABC was looking for a medical correspondent, the hospital championed her by helping her make a demo reel of her interviews. From there she was hired by ABC news and she chose to stay on in pediatrics emergency medicine as a full time faculty. She divided her time between clinical work and live news reports for a number if years, eventually becoming assistant division chief of pediatric emergency medicine. Soon enough, she was called by CNN for interviews and commentary about medical topics.
She decided to remain in academic medicine until a company called PM Pediatrics, which had heard about her through her work in media, called her and asked her to be their spokesperson and medical advisor. She accepted the offer and is now the Senior Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics. She is part of the executive leadership for the company in charge of medical content and strategy and her role is a full time non-clinical role. By choice, Dr. Johns still sees patients about once or twice per month in urgent care and still keeps a PRN clinical appointment at Children's National Medical center, the regional academic trauma center, because she does love seeing patients and because she wants to maintain her clinical skills.
Christina Johns describes her job as a busy and challenging one. She says that she stays on top of the most updated medical research and developments, because an inherent component of media involves staying ahead of the news and reporting everything in timely manner.
Dr. Johns is generous in sharing her advice with other physicians who have an interest in working in the media. She says that it is important to reach out to your own hospital PR and marketing department by showing your interest and letting the media team get to know you. She advises doctors to make pitches to the media team, keeping in mind that some stories are seasonal, some are breaking, and some are evergreen. She also suggests getting involved in your national medical society and getting to know the committee that manages communications for your medical specialty organization. She says that taking initiative by constructing a social media identity and tweeting or posting or sharing stories is a good way to build a following and to get experience in media.
Interestingly, Dr. Johns points out that typically, it is not trainees who are sought after for medial expertise and media interviews, but rather, more experienced physicians. She explains that clinical experience is an important part of building credibility and she also emphasizes that it is important to stay current on clinical procedures in order to avoid becoming outdated.
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